Turtle Paintings: Map Turtle Ballet II
The path to my usual turtle viewing spot by the river changes as the season advances. Later in the summer the honeysuckle begins to tangle up with the raspberry brambles and the gaps begin to disappear. Today I am looking for an alternative route. I make my way toward a concrete retaining wall at the water’s edge. I intend to follow the wall as far as possible then somehow drop down to the bank level, maybe a five foot drop, and continue along the bank. However, when the wall ends, I find there is no good way down, and no bank to land on if I just jumped. Peering over the wall, looking for alternatives to going all the way back, I find none, but I do catch a little movement in the water below. In the calm water between two very old, mostly submerged stumps a Map Turtle swims deliberately. It stops periodically to poke its head out of the water looking back in the direction from which it came. Swimming toward the first turtle is a smaller map turtle, this one has a thinner more colorful neck and head, and a smaller, flatter shell with very pronounced knobs and serrations. The smaller turtle, perhaps a juvenile of the species, or a young male swims to the larger one, perhaps a mature female, just touching its shell. The larger turtle swims on to the next stump where it pauses again seemingly waiting for the smaller one. This graceful bit of choreography continues for a few more pauses and touches until the two map turtles swim on down the bank.
This painting of the encounter described above, was a particular challenge to a watercolor painter. The difference between what is seen above water and what is seen below the surface is very subtle, particularly in a scene with low reflectivity. The water, murky and translucent has the effect of dulling detail and reducing contrast on the submerged parts of turtles and stumps. But, the difference in values between the perceived water surface and the water's depths is slight. I had to make good use of the points of intersection - where the turtles and stumps broke through the water surface - to make a convincing transition.